Michael Bourn replaces Ian Desmond in All-Star Game

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Ian Desmond is 2-for-2 with a home run today, but the league has announced that he’ll sit out the All-Star Game and be replaced by Braves center fielder Michael Bourn.

Desmond, who leads all shortstops with 16 home runs this season, has been nursing a strained left oblique for three weeks and decided the rest would do him some good. Since he doesn’t quite have the same profile as Derek Jeter, he can get away with it without catching too much flak.

With Desmond gone, there was another chance to get Bryce Harper on to the NL All-Star team. It would have been replacing a National with another National. However, the league went with Bourn instead. He has been the better player; he’s arguably the NL’s best defensive center fielder and he’s hitting .305/.360/.448 with 23 steals this season.

Another option would have been Jed Lowrie, a shortstop who has been essentially Desmond’s equal with the bat this season. The NL, though, still has two shortstops on the roster with Desmond out and it won’t hurt to have another true center fielder with Matt Kemp absent.

Rakuten Golden Eagles sign Jabari Blash

Jabari Blash
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Former Angels outfielder Jabari Blash has signed a one-year deal with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of Nippon Professional Baseball, the team announced Friday. Per the Japan Times, the deal is said to be worth around $1.06 million. Blash was released from his contract with the Angels at the end of November.

The 29-year-old outfielder has had a rough go of it in the majors, where he failed to duplicate the promising results he delivered in the minors. While he consistently batted above .250 with 20-30 home runs per season at the Double- and Triple-A level, he petered out in back-to-back gigs with the Padres and Angels and slumped toward a .103/.200/.128 finish across 45 PA for Anaheim in 2018.

The hope, of course, is that the environment in NPB will help him get a better handle on his issues at the plate — in a best case scenario, resulting in a full-scale transformation that could make him more marketable to MLB teams in the future. To that end, Blash expects to be utilized as a cleanup batter in the Eagles’ lineup and will focus on assisting the club as they make a run toward the Japan Series.